Women's games awarded to UAE

The UAE is to host the second GCC Women's Games, which organisers hope will help the region's female athletes become more competitive.

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ABU DHABI // The UAE has won the right to host the second GCC Women's Games, an event organisers hope will help the region's female athletes become more competitive at home and abroad. "Including Gulf women in sports as part of the national agenda of Gulf countries is instrumental to the social development of these women," said Sheikha Naima al Sabah of Kuwait, the president of the GCC Women's Sports Organising Committee, which met yesterday in the capital.

The committee was set up in July 2007 to initiate and organise sporting events specifically for women in the Gulf region; the GCC Women's Games were held for the first time last year in Kuwait. Female athletes will be able to compete in seven sports: taekwondo, shooting, basketball, volleyball, table tennis, archery and 10-pin bowling, the last two having been added for next year. They do not compete in abayas and men are not allowed as spectators.

"It is important for us to be sensitive to the specific needs of the Gulf woman, which means we must be able to provide facilities and sports that will cater to their needs," said Abdulla al Hashim, the committee's assistant secretary general. "The addition of new sports to the competition is an indicator of our seriousness in enriching the culture of sport in Gulf women." Sheikha al Sabah added that there was a "strong need for awareness on the importance of sport for the welfare of our women, and the overall development of our nations".

While the Gulf countries have made much headway in sport, she said, there was still a lot that could be done to develop competitive female athletes. She said sporting organisations needed to impress upon parents, especially mothers, the importance of sport in social development. "We must also remind people that sport is a part of our religion." The event is expected to occur in March next year, but the final programme and exact location and time will be announced later.

Oman will host a two-day symposium in October called Developing Women in Sports that will also seek ways of encouraging female athletes. "We don't only need awareness campaigns on the importance of exercise, but we must also provide women with the opportunity to compete and become good athletes," said Sana al Busaidi, president of the Omani Sports Committee, yesterday. talramahi@thenational.ae